Nanoscale click-reactive scaffolds from peptide self-assembly.

07 Oct 2017

BACKGROUND: Due to their natural tendency to self-assemble, proteins and peptides are important components for organic nanotechnology. One particular class of peptides of recent interest is those that form amyloid fibrils, as this self-assembly results in extremely strong, stable quasi-one-dimensional structures which can be used to organise a wide range of cargo species including proteins and oligonucleotides. However, assembly of peptides already conjugated to proteins is limited to cargo species that do not interfere sterically with the assembly process or misfold under the harsh conditions often used for assembly. Therefore, a general method is needed to conjugate proteins and other molecules to amyloid fibrils after the fibrils have self-assembled. RESULTS: Here we have designed an amyloidogenic peptide based on the TTR105-115 fragment of transthyretin to form fibrils that display an alkyne functionality, important for bioorthogonal chemical reactions, on their surface. The fibrils were formed and reacted both with an azide-containing amino acid and with an azide-functionalised dye by the Huisgen cycloaddition, one of the class of "click" reactions. Mass spectrometry and total internal reflection fluorescence optical microscopy were used to show that peptides incorporated into the fibrils reacted with the azide while maintaining the structure of the fibril. These click-functionalised amyloid fibrils have a variety of potential uses in materials and as scaffolds for bionanotechnology. DISCUSSION: Although previous studies have produced peptides that can both form amyloid fibrils and undergo "click"-type reactions, this is the first example of amyloid fibrils that can undergo such a reaction after they have been formed. Our approach has the advantage that self-assembly takes place before click functionalization rather than pre-functionalised building blocks self-assembling. Therefore, the molecules used to functionalise the fibril do not themselves have to be exposed to harsh, amyloid-forming conditions. This means that a wider range of proteins can be used as ligands in this process. For instance, the fibrils can be functionalised with a green fluorescent protein that retains its fluorescence after it is attached to the fibrils, whereas this protein loses its fluorescence if it is exposed to the conditions used for aggregation.